This building at Five Corners in downtown Chilliwack could be the location for a winter housing project for women. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress file)

Plans afoot for winter housing for women in Chilliwack

The next step is getting a temporary use permit to allow the facility to operate in DT Chilliwack

Ann Davis Transition Society has been working for weeks to get a “winter housing project” established in downtown Chilliwack.

“We have been trying to get this project going to get women off the streets,” said Patti MacAhonic, executive director of ADTS. “This is a crisis situation.”

BC Housing confirmed with ADTS reps about three weeks ago that funding was approved for a 20-bed winter housing project, she said.

The situation is dire, so in a sense it’s emergency shelter.

“So it’s not just homeless women we would serve, but women at risk of homelessness. It’s those who are couch-surfing, and not safe. Some were beaten by their partners, but went back to them since there was nowhere else for them to go,” said MacAhonic.

A public hearing at city hall for a temporary use permit is Dec. 5.

The last homeless count showed 67 women identified as homeless, and the percentage of homeless women in Chilliwack at 37.2 per cent, which is higher than most other Fraser Valley communities. But that doesn’t include women who are among the invisible homeless.

“We just couldn’t turn people away from the transition house anymore,” MacAhonic said about the desperate need to get women off the streets, even on a temporary basis.

“People don’t realize we have an anomaly with a higher than average number of homeless women here. So we are doing this because we care about the women of this community.”

The new facility for women will be low- to no-barrier housing with wrap-around supports, located at Yale and Young. The low-barrier model is how it will be different from the ADTS transition house.

“So it’s not just homeless women we would serve, but women at risk of homelessness. It’s those who are couch-surfing, and not safe. Some were beaten by their partners, but went back to them since there was nowhere else for them to go,” said MacAhonic.

The temporary facility will employ 12 full-time ADTS staff, and six on call for six months.

ADTS already provides counselling, programs, legal advocacy, as well as operating a thrift store, so it has the ability to provide support services, she said. Ruth and Naomi’s Mission will provide an evening meal.

One of the challenges in Chilliwack is that emergency shelter housing is not the best for women, especially already traumatized women.

There are in fact very few shelter options for women, confirmed Tim Bohr, Community Ministries Director for Salvation Army.

They have a women’s room in the main shelter building, with five beds, two bunks and a women’s only bathroom downstairs.

In the 30-bed temporary shelter in the soup kitchen, there is a room divider between men and women.

“There is no real privacy for women in the temporary shelter,” he noted.

“I can add my voice of support to this project. It’s definitely needed and will serve an immediate need.”

READ MORE: Several efforts underway

Once the temporary modular shelter is in place by early 2018, there will be a separate section with a women’s only hallway and a number of rooms for females only, but for now there is very little available.

Partnerships and support from the community are growing.

Next step is the application for a Temporary Use Permit (TUP) from City of Chilliwack for the project, but the facility could be opened within weeks of that approval, she said.


 

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This building at Five Corners in downtown Chilliwack could be the location for a winter housing project for women. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress file)

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